Another anniversary: Andrei Sakharov died on this day in 1989. A Russian dissident, a mastermind of their H-bomb, peace activist, and the author of the conditions needed for baryogenesis.Today, the Google Doodle Booble reminds us of Tycho Brahe:
His name has appeared in nine TRF blog posts so this is the tenth one.
Tycho Brahe was born on December 14th, 1546, to a top-tier aristocratic family in Scania, Denmark (now South Sweden). He would attend a Latin school (age: 6-12 years; Latin is a subject for babies, of course), then study philosophy and rhetoric in Copenhagen (age: 13-16; typical subjects for children) and then the law school in Leipzig, DDR. When he was 19, he inherited lots of money so he had tons of time for his hobbies – alchemy and especially astronomy.
According to his memoirs, it's been decided for him to become a scholar when his uncle borrowed a 2-year-old Tycho and (without any parents' permission) remolded the baby into a scholar. As a rich guy, he would add the study of chemistry in Augsburg. In the 1580s, Tycho would possess about 1% of Denmark.
When he was 25, his dad died and Tycho returned to Denmark where he acquired his own observatory. A year later, he observed the the SN1572 supernova and described the observations in his "On the new star" essay. He would travel all over Europe for a while. But he was given a great offer by Frederick II of Denmark, the king, who built two observatories for Tycho.
This generosity may have been due to more than the king's respect to Tycho's talents; Tycho's uncle (and step father) has previously saved the king's life while drowning and sacrificed his own life (after pneumonia).
Tycho Brahe would work on his Danish observatories for 20 years but then he had a clash with the new king, Christian IV, so he left his homeland again. He would travel all over Europe for a while again. When he was 53, he got another major offer. He was invited by our (Austrian) emperor Rudolph II to Prague, the capital of the Austria Empire since 1583, and became the court astrologer. Unfortunately, less than two years of his life were ahead of him at that moment.
This offer was probably masterminded by Tadeáš Hájek of Hájek (Smallgrove of Smallgrove), a prominent Czech astronomer and mathematician and the personal physician of the emperor. I can't resist to emphasize that the end of the 16th century and the beginning of the 17th century was another proud (in my optics) period of my homeland in which our belonging to the Western European civilization was beyond any dispute. And I am confident that the Czech protestant aristocrats' loss in 1620 (the Battle of the White Mountain) was a dark event not only for the Czech patriots but for everyone who lived in Bohemia and Moravia (including the Germans); out lands were moved to the periphery of Western Europe, kind of.
Rudolph II (the guy on the "photograph" above where he appears as Vertumnus, the Roman God of seasons; (C) 1591–1592, Giuseppe Arcimboldo; Swedish queen Christina sent a batalion of thieves and terrorists to Prague in 1648 who successfully stole the painting along with 759 other paintings, 100 bronze statues, 33,000 coins and medallions, 600 pieces of crystal, 300 scientific instruments, manuscripts, and books, and she dared to call this robbery "peace": just if you wanted to know how Sweden may be capable of funding scientists who aren't very good – to compare, the British queen can't afford a few nuts for her bodyguards) really enjoyed arts, sciences, and protosciences. Prague would be full of these things. Due to his mysterious links to alchemy and astrology, there exist many legends – many of which are myths. For example, it's often said that the funny little Golden Lane near the Prague Castle with tiny houses is called in this way because the alchemists were working there to produce gold (folks even call it "Alchemists' Alley"). In reality, alchemists have never lived over there. Rudolph II is also said to be the ultimate controller of the Golem the Jewish soil robot. ;-)
Back to Brahe. He would build a new observatory in Benátky nad Jizerou (Venice Upon Iser: I really hope that at least someone enjoys all these semi-funny yet insightful translations of some of the Czech names), a town North of Prague. Brahe would be the boss of the observatory. During the last months of his life, John Kepler would be his assistant.
In 2010, a possible murder of Tycho Brahe was investigated in Prague where his remains were taken out of the resting place. Two years later, the conclusion was published: the amount of mercury in Brahe's blood wasn't enough to back the poisoning hypothesis (that's why a possibly career-driven Kepler the Killer has regained his apparent innocence, much like the obnoxious and suspicious king Christian IV) and no other credible method of murder had been proposed.
So the default belief is still that he has suffered from some kidney-related disease such as acute uremia. The problems could have been caused or helped by a massive dinner in the chateaux of Peter Vok of Rožmberk; Tycho Brahe had a painful bladder and couldn't pee right after this dinner, the sources suggest. However, he still went to a more ordinary dinner with the emperor. The legend says that it was impolite to use the restroom before the emperor (if you're an emperor, you just don't want some rank-and-file aristocrats to piss upon your toilet) which led to the near-explosion of his bladder.
Tycho Brahe would believe some kind of "enlightened geocentrism". He was stuck with geocentrism but all the other features of his model were modern and data-driven. He would prove that the celestial sphere wasn't constant. It was believed that all the temporary lights in the sky had to be comets or meteors – nearby objects. He would prove that a new star had no measurable parallax so it had to be very far, thus falsifying the particular formulation of the "constant sky" paradigm.
Most importantly, I think, Tycho's meticulous observations of the planetary motion were sort of needed for Kepler to induce his (Kepler's) laws – something that Isaac Newton was later able to derive from his new theory of mechanics and gravity. In some sense, Tycho represented the kind of a scientist that every other aristocrat could become with a sufficient amount of patience, hard work, and motivation. I wouldn't say that he's proven he was ingenious but his contributions to science were still extremely important.